Toronto Synagogue Suspends Activities After Lay Leader Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Synagogue says man tested positive after attending last week's AIPAC conference in Washington – the fifth known case of a conference attendee being infected

A paramedic removes protective gear outside the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada March 9, 2020.
REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

WASHINGTON – A synagogue in Toronto, Canada is suspending some activities this week after a lay leader who attended the AIPAC conference in Washington last week was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. According to reports in Canadian media, Beth Sholom Synagogue will be temporarily closed as the building undergoes sanitation. 

The synagogue said in statement released on Monday that the man tested positive after experiencing flu-like symptoms and his condition is improving. He has not been to the synagogue since he was diagnosed, and is currently in home quarantine. The synagogue said it was suspending operations as precaution.

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This is the fifth known case of an AIPAC conference attendee who tested positive for the virus, after two cases in New York, one in Los Angeles and one in Ohio.

On Friday, AIPAC sent out an email to its mailing list saying that two New York residents who attended the conference had tested positive for the coronavirus. A day earlier, the pro-Israeli lobby emailed event participants, saying that a delegation from a New York synagogue had been in contact with a person who had the virus before the event. The announcements stirred confusion and concern among other conference attendees both in the United States and in Israel. 

Several Israelis who attended the conference and returned to Israel before AIPAC’s announcement gave different accounts on how Israeli authorities handled their arrival from Washington. On Monday, Israel expanded its quarantine order to include all arrivals, but the order only applies as of Monday for Israelis and Thursday for foreigners.

“I have not been instructed to go into quarantine since returning,” said one Israeli who had spoken at the conference. “I also called the government hotline and was told there are no special instructions regarding the conference. I canceled some plans I had for this week, but am not fully in quarantine.”